How to hold a matchmaking dinner party

Fancy trying a bit of dinner party matchmaking? Here’s how to go about it, smoothly…

Who to invite
Choose your guests wisely. Make sure none of them have issues with each other and keep the party to a manageable number, no more than eight to ten guests.  Chances are that all your single friends have already met each other so once you have chosen which three or four friends you wish to invite, ask each one to bring along a single friend of the opposite sex who none of you have met before. Ask your friends to email you the names and email addresses of their guests plus their photos so you can recognise them when they arrive.

What to eat
Avoid trying to impress with new and elaborate recipes, keep the menu simple and make sure you know whether your guests have any special dietary requirements. You don’t want to kill anyone off!  You also don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen so try to do as much as you can the night before. If you have to go to work on the day itself you don’t want to be rushing around in the few hours you have before the guests start arriving, so consider serving a cold starter such as mozzarella and tomato salad, Parma ham and melon or a Caesar salad (which can be bought in a pre-packed in a supermarket!)

For the main course I would recommend a simple casserole dish which can be made in advance; marinating and vegetable chopping can also be done the night before. Prepare or buy a cold dessert that can be stored in the fridge. Dishes such as tiramisu, chocolate mousse or cheesecake are easy, delicious and all store well.

Plan the wines to go with the food and if you are unsure what wines are best suited to your menu take advice from your local wine merchant. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get delicious wines nowadays. A nice touch would be to serve sparkling wine as a welcoming drink to start the party off with a buzz.

General Preparation
Get the table ready the night before; do your seating plans and put named place cards on the table; put fresh flowers in vases; decide what background music you wish to play and place your CDs or iPod at the ready; choose your lighting arrangement, put candles on the table and at other strategic places in the room. Decide what you will wear and lay out your outfit so that you can spend the minimum amount of time running round getting yourself ready.

It might seem a bit contrived but it’s not a bad idea to mug up on current affairs, latest films and interesting topics – to have as a standby if conversation flags and to make sure you’re in the know about what’s being said!

Remember your guests are looking forward to seeing you and you need to be around to put everyone at their ease as well, as having a good time yourself.

Keep things moving
People will judge the evening on how much fun they’ve had, not just how good the food was, so make sure you concentrate on fun as much as you do on food.

After each course ask the men to take their glasses and napkins and move one place to their left if it’s a table of eight; two places to the left if it’s a table of ten. In this way everyone gets to talk to each other.

Following up
The next day send an email to all your guests saying how much you enjoyed having them to dinner and attach the guest list with email address just in case anyone wants to get in contact with each other.

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